Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: The University of Edinburgh
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: Erasmus
Semester: Autumn semester 2021/2022
Name: Nassai Herren
Email address:


Great Britain has always been considered a beacon of academia, particularly in the English-speaking world, among which include former colonies. As such, when I heard about the exchange program, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to see this part of the world for myself. I chose Edinburgh in particular as I had an old classmate who studied there and had absolutely loved the city and university.

The application process was honestly quite difficult, I suspect that there was a changeover in staff in charge of the incoming students, as the coordinator in Edinburgh was initially incorrect as to the application that I needed to fill out. They were also difficult to get into contact with, however the international coordinator at Karolinska was very helpful and helped me get some answers a few times. I did eventually manage to complete the correct form (Undergraduate Visiting Student Application Form), which required a personal statement, relevant knowledge/training, my expected project, academic qualifications, English language qualifications, financial information, supervisors approval, etc.

I received the final acceptance in mid-December, with a beginning date of mid-January.

I would recommend that anyone going to Edinburgh for research should begin looking for a supervisor and for accomodation basically as soon as they get the nomination from KI. Edinburgh does make it relatively easy to find supervisors, their website has a lot of information about different research groups and the contact information of the PIs responsible. It took a bit to find someone who had space for a student, mostly due to COVID-19, but it wasn't that long before I had a good lab lined up.

Arrival and registration

If you come to Edinburgh for research, you mostly organise your start with the lab itself. I didn't do any courses there, but it is good to note that the UK has different semester dates than Sweden, so I arrived a month into the second semester.

There wasn't any issues with visas for me, as I was issued a standard visitor visa as my stay would be less than 6 months. You need to show your plane ticket/passport or visa stamp in order to be fully matriculated into the university, so make sure you hold onto your ticket if you don't get stamped (which I wasnt).

Universities in the UK assign each student with a personal tutor, who meets with you as often as you like. You can ask for guidance on anything within the university that you may be having trouble with, and they're there to point you in the correct direction or give some support. You are usually given the email of your tutor, but you can also find them on the university website when you login.


I was given an ERAMUS grant for the exchange, however the UK is very expensive (and getting more so), so it didn't cover all of my costs. The biggest cost for me was accommodation, as it can be difficult to find something a month into the semester. Some landlords are reluctant to rent to undergraduate students, particularly for only a semester.

Food and gas (heating, cooking) are also a factor in living costs, so I recommend shopping at cheaper supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi, instead of the classic British stores like Waitrose. Scotland can be cold, but avoid using too much gas to heat your apartment as it quickly adds up.


I had to find my own accommodation, as I never received an offer (or rejection) from University housing. This may have been due to the late acceptance of my application from the issues, so future exchange students should still apply. Finding housing in Edinburgh however is notoriously difficult, and it was difficult for me as well.

Housing is very expensive, and usually the standard of housing is lower than in Sweden. Be prepared for carpets (sometimes even in the bathroom). There are nice places that can be found, but it is rarer, and I found that most places were full due to the semester dates.

I highly recommend sending an email to the groups in your building asking if anyone has anything, as this was how I found my longer term accommodation. There tends to be an emailing list that gets sent out often with different requests (e.g. for a particular antibody) or information about areas of the building in which labs are held. You can email the person who sends that out, and ask them to forward a small ad for you.

From doing this, I was contacted by a PhD student in the same lab who had a room available which I was able to stay in.

Some websites you can use to look are Facebook groups, SpareRoom, and Gumtree. Be prepared to apply for a lot of places on these sites however, as adverts get an enormous amount of applicants.

I was unable to find housing before arrival, so I stayed in a hostel and AirBnB for the first month before staying in an apartment quite close to my lab.

Studies in general

As I was doing research, I wasn't particularly involved in the teaching side. I was required to attend two safety lectures however before being allowed to work in the lab. One lecture was held for all incoming project students, so it is a good opportunity to meet some of the University students who are doing their dissertations.

My supervisor had a master's student doing a project which was similar to mine, and so she showed me how to use the different equipment needed for the experiments and helped me in the development of the protocols. I was expected to be quite independent in when I did experiments, and I would run through a few weeks work with my supervisor in regular meetings.

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
My exchange was for the bachelor thesis, and so was primarily research based.

It is important to supply your supervisor with the KI examination requirements and mark scheme, as the UK grades their projects differently.

Language and Culture

English is my native language, so I had no trouble with the country or project, however the Scottish accent can be quite difficult to understand. I was able to understand everyone I spoke to, however I knew a few international students who struggled quite a lot with the accent.

Edinburgh is very international, and is considered by Scots to be posh, so there are much fewer people with thick Scottish accents. If you travel around Scotland however, you might find it harder to understand people when they speak to you.

Scotland as a whole is very easy-going and really beautiful, and I didn't find it difficult to understand the culture (maybe due to the prominence of the UK culture globally, but more likely due to the UK influence on my own country).

Leisure time and social activities

The University of Edinburgh has an enormous number of social clubs (called societies) and sports clubs. There are over 60 sports clubs, and over 290 societies. You can find these easily through the University website:

Many of the sports clubs require that you hold a membership to the University gym, which is very well equipped. I didn't personally buy this, as access to the swimming pool and climbing gym were restricted at the time, but I do recommend it now that it has opened up again. Membership for one semester is about £70 (~875sek). Many sports clubs have an additional cost for their individual membership, which ranges dramatically depending on the activity (up to over a hundred pounds) and level (e.g. the snowsports club has two options, one costing £20, and the other costing £115 ( Some clubs do not have a one semester option as well, so if you would like to join you may have to pay for the full year. There are so many options however, that you are bound to find something that works.

The societies also often have a membership cost attached, but these tend to be cheaper than the sports clubs. You are also welcome to attend a few meetings of different clubs for free to see if it is something you are interested in before paying for membership. The University website also lists the contact information for each society, and their social media, so you can see if there are any upcoming events/meetings. The societies are run through the Edinburgh University Students' Association, which you are automatically a member of if you are matriculated into the University.

I really really recommend joining at least one society, it's a really good way to meet other students.

If you are under 22, you are also entitled to free bus travel throughout the entirety of Scotland through having a Young Scots national entitlement card ( This is a really easy way to get to different cities, or even just explore Edinburgh. For example, it takes just over an hour to drive to the neighbouring city of Glasgow using a coach (a bus). You can book these coaches through companies like megabus online (select that you have a NEC card), or just show up when it leaves.


I really enjoyed my exchange, and I really liked what the University of Edinburgh had to offer. I was very stressed about making sure I was doing good research so my thesis would be good, so looking back I wish I had relaxed a bit more and enjoyed Scotland and the University more than I did.

I think Edinburgh might be a bit too expensive for me to return there unfortunately, but the people I met there were lovely and I highly recommend it as a place to visit and go on exchange to.